using transition to break habits.

I hear it over and over again in my work: periods of transition are hard. 

Believe me, I know. (One of the first posts I wrote on this site was on transition and what it can help to illuminate.) The past three years have been full of transition in my world, and I feel honoured when my clients tell me about the changes - big and small - happening in their worlds in a given week. These shifts give us a rare opportunity to step outside of the place we feel comfortable and assess things with a little more perspective. Transition asks us to move gracefully from certainty to uncertainty, and in the grey space in between, we are afforded the chance to see how accurately our everyday habits align with our goals.

first homecooked dinner in the new place! it was a veritable smorgasbord as I experimented with the still-packed-up kitchen. a bit of a change from our previous well-organized familiar set up!

first homecooked dinner in the new place! it was a veritable smorgasbord as I attempted to navigate the still-packed-up kitchen. a bit of a change from our previous, very-well-organized set up!

Recently, my husband and I moved from the east side of Manhattan to the west side -- a glorious change, and a welcome new adventure on all counts. We had a pretty established routine in our old place, so there has been some adjusting as we find our bearings in the new neighbourhood and within the new apartment itself. (Echoes of "Honey, where are the spoons?" and "Have you seen my moisturizer?" are abounding these days). Apart from misplaced silverware, this shift in our life has given me pause to step back from the other elements of our world that were becoming commonplace -- and I've realized this big change is a great opportunity to look at some everyday things that are no longer serving me.  

Just like the saying "you can't see the forest for the trees" goes, we so often become embroiled in day-to-day life that we don't recognize how we are getting in our own way. This applies to just about every facet, from how we eat, to when we go to bed, to the types of people with whom we spend our time. When things become rote, it can be difficult to step aside and give them some critical thought. The familiar is easy, it's comfortable, and staying in it doesn't require us to find that potentially difficult grey zone of change. The unfortunate thing about this - particularly when it comes to habits that aren't serving us - is that the other side of the transition (the destination, if you will) is full of new possibility and expanded horizons. We can't see what's on that other shore until we step off the one we're on and swim through those potentially difficult waters. 

When it comes to breaking habits (or embracing new behaviours that serve us more fully than ones we currently practice), it's important to know why we want to make the change, which we can only know if we step away from the current behaviour and assess what it's doing in our life. If late-night snacks and four hours of TV are common in your home, and your sleep a little irregular, perhaps there is a connection between these evening rituals and your ability to sleep soundly. If a large sandwich has made its way onto your lunch plate everyday, and everyday your energy crashes mid-afternoon, perhaps there is a connection. If you're experiencing more squabbles at home than normal, and things have become a little routine, perhaps a sense of novelty is missing and some reassessing of together-time is in order. 

The tough part is: late night snacks, TV marathons, sandwiches, and routine activities at home can often become so entrenched in how we live our lives, we can't see how they're affecting us... that is, until we are asked to change them (either by choice or by circumstance). What is happening in your life right now that, if it went away, you would notice a positive change?  It's often easier to let a habit go when our surroundings change: the action is no longer tied to the environment (snacking at the computer, anyone?), so we can rewire our neural circuitry to activate another response. With the opportunity to see what things are like without a particular habit, we can start to understand how unnecessary it might be to our wellbeing.

In the examples above, that might include spending time in a different room before bedtime, finding another activity that removes us from the TV room, or simply going to bed earlier. (Change of surrounding, change of action, change of timing.) It could involve bringing a lunch, finding another place to pick up take-out, or planning meals in advance to have that sandwich at another point in the day. (Change of action, change of surrounding, change of thinking.) It could mean scheduling time outside the house together, trying a new hobby or social meet-up together, or finding ways to make the routine different. (Change of surroundings, change of action, change of thinking.)

When we choose to embrace change as an opportunity to grow, we can shed the things we no longer need and discover a whole new set of tools we have within to do incredible things. We just have to be willing to get out of our own way.

How can you take advantage of periods of transition to gracefully move away from habits that do not serve you? 

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